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Orecchiette with Peas, Asparagus and Mascarpone

Posted Jun 14 2013 9:57pm

Sunny skies and rain boots. A younger version of myself, smaller, with a wild imagination and pig tails, stood within the giant wooden-staked rows of sugar snap peas. There wasn't enough time to break for lunch, I thought, as my mom called my name through the window. Things were getting serious. In the game of war, there were two teams, two forts, and the goal was to find your opponents, capture them, and ambush their fort with dog poop. Jason, Corinna, and Robyne were inching in on me. I could hear them rustling in the brush. My fort stood unoccupied, and the other members of my team were nowhere to be seen. I grabbed as many sugar snap peas as my tiny hands could hold, and I headed back into the forest. Garden sustenance came in handy, back in the days of light hearted savagery. 


Today, my life is a bit less dramatic. Without the constant fear of my fort being seized, I find myself caught up in the moments of my past. Gardens, forts, a life less simple. Sometimes I dig deep, trying to come up with creativity that once filled every part of my being. Albeit, I was eight, but nevertheless, I miss the days of make-believe. My former eight year old self is a constant reminder that I shouldn't take things too seriously, and even though that person who left the passive aggressive note on my door about the bag of mulch in the hallway really stressed me out, I should probably just let it go, because he/she is likely just a real-life jerk, who probably hates adorable things like kittens and puppies .

While we're on the topic of adorable, orecchiette is high on my list of cute pastas, right beside farfalle. I have yet to make either from scratch, mostly because I am terrified, and a little lazy. So instead, I purchase orecchiette already shaped into adorable little ears - which is how it gets its name, orecchio meaning "ear" and etto meaning "small". I am a traditional pasta girl, I like a simple tomato sauce or basil almond pesto , but I decided to branch out this week, channeling that little girl with red boots and pig tails. 

It's a little too early in the season for my garden peas - they're still barely a foot high - so I stocked up on the necessary ingredients from the market. I chose a combination of two green veggies: sugar snap peas, sweet and soft, and asparagus, which has a remarkable crunch if lightly steamed or boiled for less than 2 minutes. I am a stickler for properly cooked veggies, and watch them meticulously as soon as they hit the water, waiting to pull them as soon as their bright green color appears. The two greens, being slightly different in color, provide a subtle contrast to this dish. I decided to season the pasta with only a few simple ingredients: parmesan cheese, a good quality olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. My intentions with this dish were somewhere along the lines of light and summery, crisp and fresh. The addition of the mascarpone cheese adds a nice creaminess and pairs well with the citrus from the lemon. Brent added a touch of green pepper sauce and said that it worked well. I enjoyed mine with a glass of Chardonnay on the patio, enjoying the view. 


print ORECCHIETTE WITH PEAS ASPARAGUS AND MASCARPONEserves 2 as a main
INGREDIENTS2 cups dry orecchiette pasta14 asparagus spears, chopped
1/3 cup sugar snap peas, shelled
2 tbsp good quality olive oil
1 lemon, squeezed
1 oz Parmesan cheese
 kosher salt and cracked black pepper
1/2 cup (4 oz) mascarpone cheese
peas shoots for garnish

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the orecchiette pasta and cook until al dente. Once al dente, add the chopped asparagus and peas, and continue boiling until the asparagus turns bright green, 1 to 2 minutes. You want the asparagus to maintain its crisp texture, so do not over cook. Drain the pasta, peas, and asparagus, and place into a large bowl.

Add the olive oil and lemon juice to the pasta. Sprinkle in the grated Parmesan cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust as necessary. Toss the pasta and then plate with a few dollops of mascarpone cheese on top, followed by a drizzle of olive oil.  Garnish with pea shoots. Serve warm.

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